This new year everyone has been talking about the much anticipated new adaptation of Little Women starring Saiorse Ronan, Emma Watson and Florence Pugh where director Greta Gerwig (Ladybird) brings a modern vision to the 19th-Century novel by Louisa May Alcott. The original story if you haven’t read it or watched the iconic 1994 version with Winona Ryder follows the lives of the four March sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy and details their passage from childhood to womanhood in a picturesque nineteenth-century New England.
Everyone will have their opinion on a beloved classic that means so much to so many so I will keep my two cents to myself – only to say overall it was glorious to be transported back into the world of the March family. The sets, locations and costumes were rich and evocative and I fell in love with all the characters all over again and most of all how the updated version re-enforced the wonderful thread of feminism in this 150 year old classic for a new audience.
If like me you love a deep dive, I’ve done a little round-up of what i’ve stumbled upon online from Little Women related instagram accounts, articles of note and incase you wanted to transform your home into a bohemian 19th century New England abode – a little March House get the look. Enjoy!
First let’s look at the Interiors. The movie was filmed in at the same place the book was written over a hundred years ago, in Concord, Massachusetts. Oscar-nominated production designer Jess Gonchor a frequent collaborator of the Coen brothers spent four months preparing the sets with his team. In this version of the film, the March house is a bit broken and run-down on the outside, but the interiors have a flow of positive energy and colour – it feels vibrant and bohemian and each room has its own identity so food, blankets, a fire, paints, books … everything that you need to feel happy and warm in the middle of a cold Massachusetts winter.
The Los Angeles Times wrote about the look of the film and I love this description of the family’s home which was inspired by the author’s own home.
The Orchard House is so iconic, and everyone who knows the story knows what it looks like. Louisa May Alcott’s father Bronson didn’t want the house to overshadow the beautiful landscape. He had said that he wanted the house to feel like a mushroom that grew out of the ground, so that if you ran by it quickly, you wouldn’t even notice it. I wanted to hold on to that notion.
There was also a whole team dedicated to getting the food described in the pages of the novel absolutely right.
From the get-go the number one priority for this Christmas feast from the Laurence house was there had to be ice cream and it had to be pink. It had to be pink, because it was pink in Alcott’s book.
Food stylist Claire Tobin managed a glorious mountain of pink peppermint on set, replacing its scoops as they melted in a punch bowl. She used 75 gallons from the Puritan Ice Cream Co. in Boston that’s been making it for over 100 years. Read more about the edible artistry from the film at The Artery.
The author of Little Women is just as fascinating and spirited as her characters. Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women in 1868 and said “My life is full of troubles so I write jolly stories”. She was vivacious, passionate, romantic, principled – and nearly six feet tall! Her parents raised their four daughters in a politically active household in Massachusetts. As a child, Alcott briefly lived with her family in a failed Transcendentalist commune and helped her parents hide slaves who had escaped via the Underground Railroad.
Her cameo in the recent mini-series Dickinson about Emily Dickinson was hilariously executed by Zozia Mamet of Girls fame and I would love, love to believe it portrayed her cynicism and wit accurately! In Episode 8 Alcott came to lunch at the Dickinson’s and gave Emily some brilliant career advice. The episode also introduced me to the idea that Alcott enjoyed running! It never occurred to me that women in the 19th century ran for exercise… that episode of Dickinson is worth a watch just on its own.
I’m also planning on watching a 2015 docu-film The Woman Behind Little Women which at first glance looks a little twee because it has an actress who plays Louisa May Alcott narrating the documentary… but it has had excellent reviews about Alcott’s fascinating life so i’m going to stick with it!
A little further reading across the internet and beyond…
The New Yorker’s ‘Little Women and The Marmee Problem’. One of my observations about the film was that the character of Marmee felt too light… her position as matriarch in the film held not enough gravitas – everyones a critic huh? Now being a mother myself – because when I read the book I was something between a Jo and an Amy (aren’t we all?), it was moving and revelatory to read the The New Yorker’s excellent article highlighting that the stifled anger of Marmee was a thread woven through the novel Little Women. In the novel, but not in Gerwig’s film, Marmee clarifies why her anger might come as a surprise to her daughters. Once you tune into this wavelength of frustration, you can’t un-hear it.
I’ve learned to check the hasty words that rise to my lips, and when I feel that they mean to break out against my will, I just go away for a minute, and give myself a little shake for being so weak and wicked.
The work of on-set photographer Wilson Webb. If you fancy a visual deep dive into Little Women – the cinematic work of on-set photographer Wilson Webb is worth exploring. An on-set photographer is often placed in the thick of things – next to the directors, actors and directors of photography as creative decisions are being made and scenes are being shot. Wilson’s Instagram feed is a privileged look into behind the scenes of his work on the set of Little Women as well as others.
March by Geraldine Brooks I read this book about six years ago and the evocative Civil War landscape portrayed has stuck with me ever since (Geraldine Brook’s other works are great too by the way). This novel heartbreakingly retells Little Women from the point of view of the family’s absentee father Mr. March and his alternative life on the battlefields away from the comforts of his home and his family. I never even pondered Mr March’s life before this book and since then its always added depth to already layered tale of the March’s.
Little Women Atelier If you swooned over the costumes in the film, you might want to take a look at if I’m honest a pretty wearable collection of linen dresses inspired the book and created by Russian Etsy store Little Women Atelier. The dresses are even named The Meg, The Amy, The Beth and The Jo.
Tiny Kitchen. And finally just because it is so ridiculous and why the hell not – a video showing the cast of Little Women reacting to viral You Tube series Tiny Kitchen’s Little Women special…
Get The Look: March House
Wes Gingham Frill Pillow £60 / Wes Patchwork Quilt £295 Projekti Tyyni
Porcelain Pleated Shade £180 Devol / Printed Tote Bag £15 Plumo / Pyjama Stripe Housewife Pillowcases £19 Toast / Stoneware Tea-light Holder £12 Rowen and Wren
Jahi Brass Candlestick £17.95 Nkuku
Longina Floral Print Tablecloth £26 La Redoute / Mila Dark Emerald Cocktail Glass £39.95 Nkuku / Grey Fern Block Printed Gathered Lampshade £27 Pooky / Marie Wallpaper $150 Les Indiennes / Truffle Armchair in Thatch house fabric £1005 Loaf / Set of 4 Ilana Mugs £40 Anthropologie
Veronique Curtains $424 Les Indiennes
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org